How would the father's disturbing foreign adventures impact a George W. Bush presidency?

By Bev Conover


May 22, 2000 | In the week since the Los Angeles Times laid out former President George H. W. Bush's foreign business dealings and what they might mean should son George W. be elected president, not one major national news outlet has picked up on the story.

Was this merely an oversight or is it another example of the corporate media turning a blind eye to anything that would harm Boy George's chance of being elected? The latter seems the more probable. How else to explain their ignoring the fact that George W. conveniently got a new driver's license to hide whatever was on his record or the Bush family's nefarious dealings that have been documented by journalists worthy of the name, such as Robert Parry?

LA Times staff writers Alan C. Miller and Judy Pasternak, in their May 7 article, point out that while Daddy Bush has at home turned down offers to sit on corporate boards, kept clear of politics and more or less kept a low profile–all to give the appearance of a dignified ex-president–his dealings abroad have been many and far-flung: "Overseas, he has collected six-figure speaking fees, occasionally weighed in with foreign governments for private companies and sometimes sparked controversy."

The controversies are particularly interesting. According to Miller and Pasternak:

  • In Japan, Daddy Bush spoke before a rally of some 50,000 disciples of the Rev. Rev. Sun Myung Moon, incurring the wrath of Christian leaders and other critics of Moon.
  • In 1996, Daddy Bush was the keynote speaker at a black-tie dinner in Buenos Aires to launch Tiempos del Mundo, a newspaper owned by Moon. With a beaming Moon watching, Bush praised Moon for starting the paper and praised the Moon-owned Washington Times, as well. That excursion was paid for by Moon's Washington Times Foundation.

The corporate media, though, has shown little to no interest in Daddy Bush's relationship and dealings with Moon. Last week it was even ho-hum when Moon acquired United Press International from a group of Saudi Arabian businessmen who had owned it since 1992. Veteran UPI White House reporter Helen Thomas received no standing ovation from her corporate media colleagues when she resigned, rather than work for Moon.

  • In Argentina, Daddy Bush touched off a parliamentary inquiry into whether he was interfering in that country's internal affairs, after he wrote to then-President Carlos Menem on behalf of Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, who wanted to build a casino in Buenos Aires. The suspicions raised about Bush's relationship with Menem led to the project being scrapped. The Argentine lawmakers also asked questions about "Neil Bush, whose company was awarded oil exploitation rights by the Argentine government in 1987." They never received a reply from Menem about son Neil.
  • He stepped into a hot dispute over gold mining rights in Indonesia, "contacting then-President Suharto to praise [Barrick Gold Company,] a Canadian mining company that had retained the former president as an advisor." What was believed to be the world's largest gold deposit later turned out to be a monumental fraud.
  • In Kuwait, he interceded with the government on behalf of the Chevron Corp., a U.S. oil company.

But these were not the things you heard about on the evening news. Nor did you hear about the some $4 million a year he has been making on the global lecture circuit. Were these not newsworthy, considering that no other former president has had such an international presence and made so much money on the lecture circuit, in addition to having a son seeking the presidency?

Miller and Pasternak noted, "For a single engagement, he received stock that rose in value to more than $13 million at one point."

That engagement was a 1998 speech in Tokyo for which Global Crossing Ltd., a technology start-up company, paid him in stock that had risen to $13.4 million when he filed papers to sell some shares in November of that year.

Okay, so it's no crime for a fellow to make a buck. Or is it if Daddy Bush is running his own covert foreign policy? The larger question is what happens if Boy George makes it into the White House? Will Daddy continue on his merry way or will his "boy" reel him in? Don't bet on it.

But so far only Miller and Pasternak are raising troubling questions about Daddy's activities and how those activities might impact a George W. presidency, despite claims from Daddy's advisers that he will behave himself. They pointed out that "one expert one expert on the post-presidency is troubled by some of [Daddy] Bush's current activities."

They quoted Douglas Brinkley, a historian at the University of New Orleans, as noting that since leaving the White House Daddy Bush has projected a "public persona [as] the happy World War II veteran who is letting the American people see him jumping out of airplanes and being the good family man. And the covert persona is going around giving talks with people like Rev. Moon and representing American corporate interests in foreign countries."

Brinkley said if George W. is elected, Daddy has "to distance himself from all corporations and from going abroad and taking speaker fees."

George W. has already surrounded himself with his father's former advisers, many of whom are now fellows of the Hoover Institution On War, Revolution and Peace, a right-wing think tank that is the recipient of sizable donations from Richard Mellon Scaife. Boy George also has said he will turn to his father for guidance.

The sort of guidance he might get from a father who is running his own covert and profitable foreign policy seems to be of no interest to the corporate media. Nor are the media looking at which foreign powers are seeking to ingratiate themselves with Boy George on the off chance he might win.

Who in the majors, besides Miller and Pasternak, have raised the issue of Daddy's Bush's frequent trips to China, where he often meets with President Jiang Zemin? Or that his trips often are paid for by U.S. companies seeking business in China?

In 1998, Miller and Pasternak pointed out, the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, "which has been seeking an insurance license from the Beijing government," sponsored a mission to China in which Daddy "Bush discussed the Asian financial crisis with an American business group, one of six talks for Chubb worldwide."

And let us not forget Daddy Bush's brother Prescott, who has made millions from his business deals in China–some of which went down during Daddy's tenure in the White House.

But the list doesn't stop there. Daddy also advises the Carlyle Group, "a Washington-based investment company that acquires and manages defense, aerospace and other corporations worldwide" and is a senior advisor of Carlyle's Asia Advisory Board.

Last year, Daddy went to South Korea with a group of Carlyle associates who wanted to buy three South Korean companies. Daddy met with government officials, including then-Prime Minister Kim Jong Pil. Daddy's chief of staff, Jean Becker, contended it was a personal social call.

Surely it's only a coincidence that Frank C. Carlucci, Reagan's Defense secretary, is Carlyle's chairman, and James A. Baker III, Bush's secretary of State, is a senior counselor.

And the list goes on and on and on.

Miller and Pasternak wrote, "It is unclear to what extent Bush's overseas involvements could affect his son's presidential duties because the former president is not required to disclose any information about his activities or income. His office declined requests for a list of speaking fees, appearances and business sponsors."

Is the LA Times, among the major newspapers, alone in thinking that this sort of investigative reporting, in which Miller and Pasternak were aided by staff writers Sebastian Rotella in Buenos Aires and William C. Rempel in Los Angeles, and researchers John Beckham in Chicago and Lianne Hart in Houston, has merit? That the American people must be given the information they need to make an informed decision when they enter the voting booth next November? Apparently so.

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